(HealthDay News) — Self-reported higher intake of red and processed meat before the diagnosis of colorectal cancer is associated with increased risk of death, according to research published online July 1 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Marjorie L. McCullough, Sc.D., of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues examined associations of self-reported red and processed meat consumption, before and after diagnosis of invasive, non-metastatic colorectal cancer, with all-cause and cause-specific mortality. Participants were men and women enrolled in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort who reported diet and other information in 1992 to 1993 (at baseline) and in 1999 and 2003.

The researchers found that among 2,315 participants diagnosed with colorectal cancer there were 966 deaths, including 413 caused by colorectal cancer and 176 caused by cardiovascular disease. After multivariable adjustment, consumption of red and processed meats before diagnosis of colorectal cancer was identified as a risk factor for increased risk of death (for the top versus the bottom quartile) from all causes (relative risk [RR], 1.29; Ptrend = 0.03) and from cardiovascular disease (RR, 1.63; Ptrend = 0.08), but not from colorectal cancer (RR, 1.09; Ptrend = 0.54).

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Consumption of red and processed meat after diagnosis of colorectal cancer was not linked with mortality; however, compared with low intake, high intake before and after diagnosis was associated with increased risk of mortality caused by colorectal cancer.

“Although a message that prediagnosis diet influences outcomes may seem to have limited utility for a patient when they develop cancer, it furthers the strength of the recommendation for people to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle throughout their life to maximize the health benefits,” writes the author of an accompanying editorial.